War and war reporting

I am endlessly fascinated by war. Read this: John McCain’s op-ed in the WSJ about Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap.

The U.S. never lost a battle against North Vietnam, but it lost the war. Countries, not just their armies, win wars. Giap understood that. We didn’t. Americans tired of the dying and the killing before the Vietnamese did. It’s hard to defend the morality of the strategy. But you can’t deny its success.

Then read this: a piece in the London Review of Books by Patrick Cockburn on war and war reporting.

But the very term ‘war reporter’, though not often used by journalists themselves, helps explain what went wrong. Leaving aside its macho overtones, it gives the misleading impression that war can be adequately described by focusing on military combat.

Learning from foreign correspondence

I’ve been thinking a lot not just about how people get their news, but how they understand the news and what happens after that. Too often in complex stories about climate change, or even the Affordable Care Act, those seemingly “dumb” questions are glossed over and acts as a barrier to entry to those concepts. Those dumb questions help to create fluency around issues.

The foreign gaze makes Al Jazeera America treat nothing as obvious. When done well, this is in the finest tradition of foreign correspondence: a genre that soars when offering sharp, deeply reported answers to seemingly dumb questions — dumb because they are so basic and self-evident that the smugly well settled never think to ask them, any more than fish inquire about the water.

via The New York Times

Coverage of the government shutdown

I’ve been harping on this, following James Fallows’ lead, so here’s one more:

In the current political climate, journalistic false equivalence leads to an insufficiently informed electorate, because the public is not getting an accurate picture of what is going on. … Journalists have been suckered into embracing “balance” and “neutrality” at all costs, and the consequences of their choice in an era of political extremism will only get worse and worse.

Gender bias in the media

Thoughtful, incisive and perceptive piece by Adrienne LaFrance on gender bias in the media using her own work as a case study.

Here’s the essential question: “Is it your job to merely reflect what’s out there, or do you have other reasons to write in a more representative fashion?” How you answer says a lot about what you see as the critical function of journalism. If you believe that journalism has the power to affect the way people think and act — how they vote, for example — you’d probably agree that it’s important for journalism to actually represent the people it serves.